The New Bedford Historical Society is developing Abolition Row Park on a blighted corner lot in the city’s downtown core in the Seaport Cultural District and just a short walk away from the heart of Downtown New Bedford. The lot sits across the street from three buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and includes the Nathan and Mary Johnson properties (1810) and the Friends Meeting House (1820), noted because of their importance to New Bedford’s Anti-slavery movement and the Underground Railroad.
The Johnson House was home to African American abolitionists Nathan and Mary Johnson and served as an active Underground Railroad station. The Johnson House was the first home in freedom for Frederick and Anna Douglass who escaped enslavement from Maryland to New Bedford in 1838. New Bedford celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Douglass, the great orator, writer, humanitarian and civil rights leader with its first Annual Frederick Douglass Day in September 2018.
Abolition Row Park will create a new park that highlights the local history of the anti-slavery movement and the abolitionists that lived along Seventh Street, many who were neighbors and business partners of Nathan and Mary Johnson. The park will be a gateway to a new local historic district that will focus on 4 blocks of well-preserved homes that belonged to some of New Bedford’s founding families and to several of the 19th century anti-slavery advocates.